Jun 16

2014

The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence – Just the Beginning

The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict that took place this week in London was the largest gathering ever brought together on the subject. Global Diligence LLP intern Stella Stathis reports from the three-day event. Co-chaired by UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and UN Special Envoy to the High Commissioner for Refugees Angelina Jolie, the aim of the Global Summit was to create momentum against sexual violence in conflict, promote practical action that impacts those on the ground and launch a new International Protocol with international standards for documenting and investigating sexual violence in conflict zones. Governments, civil society, military and judicial representatives from around the world were brought together to discuss the international legal framework on women, peace and security which was introduced by the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 in 2000. Alongside performances, movie screenings and exhibitions, panel discussions explored a broad range of issues, including legal frameworks and national policies on tackling sexual violence, training peacekeepers and military personnel and lessons learned from criminal tribunals, such as the War Crimes Chamber the court of Bosnia Herzegovina (BiH) and the Military Courts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Sessions at the summit included: The Art Works Project organised a discussion on establishing legal frameworks to end impunity, with a particular focus on the DRC and BiH. The panel included Judge Patricia Whalen from the War Crimes Chamber of the Court of BiH and Charles-Guy Makongo, DRC country director for the American Bar Association. Mr Makongo argued that the biggest problem in prosecuting individuals for crimes of sexual violence is law enforcement and the lack of unity in the legal systems of such countries. Care International chaired an interesting discussion on the importance of facing soldiers’ post-traumatic stress disorder and the need for training communities in conflict-affected areas on how to tackle and prevent rape. Panelists explored the links between women’s empowerment, the ‘crisis in masculinity’ and the impact on raising community awareness of sexual violence. 9 Bedford Row International organized a mock trial where the audience played the jury in the case of whether the UNSCR 1325 and subsequent resolutions have made a difference in preventing sexual violence and gender inequality. The Counsel for the Defence used evidence and witness testimony to argue that the resolutions have indeed made a difference. The Prosecution argued that the resolutions have not made significant changes to most developing countries. The UK Department for International Development (DFiD) and the Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening MP, chaired a discussion which called for the international community to include the issue of gender inequality in the post-2015 development agenda. Recognising the extent that rape was used as a weapon of war, Greening described rape as a global pandemic, referring to the shocking cases of Mariam Ibrahim in Sudan and the recent gang rapes of girls in India. She also called for women’s economic empowerment, education and health care and announced that the UK will soon be holding an international summit on the protection and empowerment of girls. LSE’s Professor Naila Kabeer made the case for broader institutional reforms and stressed the co-relation between gender inequality, economic growth and human development. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) brought together senior military personnel and peacekeeping leaders to present the urgent need for further engagement with armed forces in ending sexual violence in conflict. Australian Chief of Army Lieutenant-General David Morrison – widely known for his video message on allegations that Australian army members had engaged in disgraceful and offensive behaviour (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QaqpoeVgr8U) – explained that the key to training his personnel is “finding the right way to speak to young men”. Panellists from the UK Military Oversight Body, the Norwegian Air Force and the Swedish Army reinforced this view: initial basic training plays a key role in preventing incidents of sexual violence. Accountability of military structures through effective oversight systems was considered equally important, as well as a strong military leadership that understands the importance of preventing sexual violence. The UK Home Office chaired a discussion on modern slavery and the role of the criminal justice system. The Modern Slavery Bill published in December 2013 places the UK amongst the first countries in the world to seek to specifically tackle modern slavery through legislation. UK officials and policy experts examined how the Bill would increase the options in law enforcement, including increasing the maximum sentence for human trafficking and introducing ‘slavery and trafficking prevention and risk orders’ to restrict movements of convicted or suspected traffickers. Panellists also examined the proposed creation of an anti-slavery commissioner, aimed at galvanising the UK government’s anti-slavery efforts and securing more investigations, prosecutions and convictions. Conclusion The Global Summit raised undoubtedly complex issues and illustrated how only through collective action will real change be brought about. Civil society must also continue to support initiatives at national and international level. It is inescapable however that no tangible improvement will follow without the engagement of the countries with the worst records on addressing violence against women. The efforts of the international community in organising such events as this Global Summit, together with concerted diplomatic pressure, must be brought to bear on the problem if the shocking prevalence of violence in armed conflict is to be eradicated.

[posted by Global Diligence intern Stella Stathis]